reviews\ Apr 6, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Obscure: The Aftermath - WII - Review

As a direct sequel to 2005’s Obscure, Obscure: The Aftermath follows some familiar faces on a familiar adventure. The original told the story of a group of teenagers whose high school has been overrun by all manner of mutated monsters. In The Aftermath, those students have graduated to college, but the horror has followed them.

Obscure: The Aftermath isn’t much more than your average survival-horror adventure in concept. And although the game doesn’t introduce any noteworthy innovations, it does what it sets out to do fairly well. The gameplay is enjoyable and the atmosphere creepy. Unfortunately, the game undermines many of its good aspects with some poor choices.

Say “Ahhhhhh”

Obscure’s survival-horror gameplay is pretty standard, but it’s enhanced by decent level design and the ability to swap from a group of characters with unique abilities. Where the game stumbles is in regard to controls. The most immediately noticeable issue is the use of the Wii’s IR pointer to control the camera. The result is that if you aren’t pointing directly at the center of the screen, the camera will rotate. This is especially annoying in combat, where you will struggle to even find enemies at times.

The camera system also doesn’t make sense because the game frequently shifts camera angles automatically. So not only do you fight with the user controls, but you also have to deal with your angles sporadically changing.

The combat is also awkwardly conceived on Wii.  In order to accurately use a gun, you must: hold Z to extend your arms, use the pointer to find a target, press A while pointing at the target to lock-on, and finally, if you aren’t dead yet, press B to fire. Unlike the camera, this system is functional, but needlessly complicated.

“All clear on this side of the room. Now to just turn around and - EEEEK!”

Most of the other Wii controls work well enough, even if few of them really enhance the game. The only exception is lock picking. Thankfully there are only a handful of times it is used.

As in any horror game, atmosphere is essential, and Obscure does this very well for the most part. While the graphics won’t blow anyone away, they are consistently decent, and are enhanced by some good art direction. The environments and character models are both pretty good, but the best example of the visuals is the lighting. Especially when using the flashlight, it can be very effective. Unfortunately the game doesn’t run in 480p or feature a 16x9 widescreen mode.

Obscure also receives a boost from some very good sound design and effects. The suspense music is also very good, complete with creepy choir and string quartet. It’s just too bad that the action music counters the effect by being obnoxious and over-the-top.

But, like the gameplay, as good as the atmosphere is, it is hurt by a few poor choices. In this case the script and voice acting are downright awful. It’s so bad that it must be on purpose, but when it comes down to it, purposefully bad is still bad. It seems to be attempting to match the standard of bad slasher films.

*Ding* “Dinner’s ready!”

Obscure also features a two-player co-operative mode. It’s a nice addition, but the camera is hard enough to get right for one player, let alone two. It just ends up being one player dragging the other around. Still for a genre that is almost exclusively single player, it’s a nice addition.

As you can tell, Obscure: The Aftermath leaves you with very mixed feelings. On one hand it’s an enjoyable survival-horror gameplay experience with good atmosphere, but it also suffers from a number of issues from small (voice acting, dialog) to large (controls). For $30 it’s not a bad choice, but the game certainly has its quirks.

Review Scoring Details for Obscure: The Aftermath

Gameplay: 7.0
There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before in other survival horror games, but it still proves to be a fun experience. Having multiple characters with unique abilities is probably the game’s best idea, but the combat system is awkward at times and some of the puzzles are frustrating because of some poor Wii control choices. The game does provide a good atmosphere and can even be pretty scary at times.

Graphics: 7.0 
Obscure’s visuals are pretty decent overall. Character models and environments are generally good and lighting (via flashlight) is the best effect in the game. None of the graphics will blow you away, but they are consistently above average. No 480p or 16x9 widescreen mode is unacceptable, however.

Sound: 7.0
The sound effects are very good and quite creepy. Music ranges from downright annoying to downright awesome. The voice acting is horrible, however. Whether that is intentional or not doesn’t change a thing. Bad is bad.

Difficulty: Medium
While I wouldn’t call it even close to a difficult game, Obscure creates a challenge by only giving you limited supplies. Ammo is always just about to run out and health is always an issue.

Concept: 5.5 
The game design doesn’t bring much new to the table, but where it really falls flat is in the control department. Combat, especially when using guns, is pointlessly complicated and many of the Wii motion controls are slapped on without much thought. The most irritating of all may be the IR camera system.

Multiplayer: 6.0
Drop-in multiplayer is a nice idea, especially in a genre that is almost exclusively single player. Unfortunately, it’s the type of thing where, because of the camera, it just ends up being one player dragging the other along. But still, it’s a nice option.

Overall: 6.5
Obscure: The Aftermath is an enjoyable enough adventure, but it doesn’t excel in any way. The controls on Wii are forced and unnatural and hamper what is an otherwise solid game design.

Above Average

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